That’s me right there, the guy next to the guy.

I had a conversation with a friend tonight. She is terribly down-to-earth, considering that she is young and beautiful. She’s Czech, so that helps.

“Soup Boy’s having a birthday party,” I said, “do you want to come?”


“You know, the guy who was my roommate. All the girls like him.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “I know who you mean. He is very good looking, but I don’t know him well enough to say I like him.” Emphasis on like. Significant pause. “But I like him. What time is the party?”

My whole life I’ve been the guy standing next to the guy that every woman in the room wants to be with. This theme has been so consistent that sometimes I wonder if perhaps my proximity imparts some magical quality upon my friends, but in the end I know that’s not it. The only answer I can figure is encouraging.

I hang with smart people (unless I hang with a collective delusion). Despite all the bad press women get for their questionable skills in choosing men, they will choose a smart hot guy over a stupid hot guy. I have no hotness myself, and I don’t know how I offended the gods, but for my entire adult life I’ve been the buddy of the Most Wanted Guy, the guy who’s not just good-looking but quick-witted and downright artistic. Soup Boy is all of the above, and my current platonic relationships with some really nice women began with their hope that I was the stepping-stone to his heart.

Before Soup Boy there was Vince, and Steve, and all the rest. Women have been taking me aside to ask me for the secret to win my buddy’s heart since I’ve known what ‘woman’ really meant.

I was about to take that statement back as an overstatement when I remembered something from a long time ago. I was in seventh grade, and my buddy was the object of a crush. He was an athlete, quick-witted, and creative. As the boy next to the boy of her dreams, I was interesting. Useful. Unspoken, unspeakable, was how I felt about her. In the intervening decades, nothing much has changed.

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